Into the Woods

Forest green is the deep, verdant hue we’re craving this winter.

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Deep greens have been having a moment in interior design for the past several years. The Pantone Institute identified emerald green as the color of the year for 2013, and in 1stDibs’s 2021 trends survey, which polled more than 700 interior designers, green was chosen as the most on-trend color for 2020. However, a rich forest green is an evergreen choice (forgive us the pun!) because it is so versatile and timeless.

A nature-inspired, mid to deep forest green has just a touch of darkness in the tone. It’s neither the shamrock green of St. Paddy’s Day nor the jewel tone of emerald: forest green has depth. Forest greens feel particularly right in Maine, where trees are never far from anyone’s front door.

Using forest green in your decor is thankfully uncomplicated because it matches nearly everything. Deep green is especially nice as the holidays approach and much of the color is fading outdoors. Here’s how to try this hue in your home.

Treat forest green hues as neutral.
Leafy greens are nature’s neutrals. It may feel counterintuitive to imagine such a rich color as a noncolor, but think about the way plants look in a space: you never bring a plant into a room and think, “Oh, this clashes.”

Play up the associations with nature.
Consider botanical prints to make the nature connection. “I’ve always loved leafy patterns or chintzes that have lots of green in them,” says Libby Cameron, a Connecticut-based interior designer, who used Lee Jofa’s iconic “Althea” chintz in her family home on Southport Island. These nature inspired patterns are also on trend: the 1stDibs 2021 trends forecast that identified green as the most popular color for the year ahead also predicted botanic motifs will be the most popular ones for the coming year.

Use green to create calm.
Green’s association with nature also has a powerful impact on the feeling of a room. By painting a room green, you bring nature into your home. When our lives are so busy and screen-focused that we desire to get away to the woods, forest green gives us that feeling we crave. And it’s not just a perceived feeling of calm: a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology revealed that simply walking in a green environment induces a significant reduction in one’s heart rate.

Embrace rich fabrics.
Green fabrics have long had a connotation of luxury—think deep green silk, damask, brocade, and velvet—but a more modern spin on green luxury might be a wonderful Belgian linen. Deep green paired with texture is a winning combination.

Envelope a room in forest green.
Consider wall-to-wall green in a room where you want to cocoon, like a library, says Cameron. “When you walk into a room that has dark walls, your eye immediately goes out the window, which is so nice,” says Cameron, who notes that forest green is also “a very cozy color.”

Go green in bathrooms strategically.
Cameron says small spaces like powder rooms lend themselves nicely to a dark color like forest green in a shiny finish. However, deep green walls do cast a greenish light, so think twice before using it on the walls of your primary bathroom. Instead, if you want to use forest green in a bathroom, consider a green vanity cabinet, like the one Windham-based Morrison Design House used in a Sebago Lake project. Or perhaps better still, tile your shower in forest green tiles for a relaxing, spa-like vibe, like Portland designer Tyler Karu did when she used green Fireclay tiles in a project in Biddeford.

Create a backdrop for collections.
Galleries love a white wall, but deep green is a stunning choice for the wall behind your art collection. Cameron used Benjamin Moore’s Fiddlehead Green in her library, which highlights her collection of prints in gilt frames. Deep greens are also great for bibliophiles: “The backs of bookcases are often pretty in a dark green because the color makes the bookcase recede,” says Cameron.

Refresh an all-white space.
Yarmouth-based designer Samantha S. Pappas applied green paint to the trim and window frames of a white-walled nursery to breathe life into the room without overwhelming the space with color. The green windows, in particular, blend into the views of the outdoors beyond. “The splashes of forest green give just enough depth to the nursery without being overwhelming or busy in a room which needs to be peaceful and serene,” notes Pappas. Cameron also embraced green trim against white walls in her Camden home.

Consider it underfoot!
“I happen to love painted floors,” says Cameron, who painted all of the floors in her Maine home in Benjamin Moore’s Chrome Green. “The green floor grounds you,” she says. “You look out the window, and you see all the pines and evergreens out there and the blue of the ocean— it’s a lovely combination.” Cameron notes that painted floors are also a low-maintenance, casual choice for a Maine summer cottage.

Coat your cabinets in green.
Forest green is an increasingly popular choice for kitchen cabinetry: it’s timeless, yet less expected than the usual white or gray. Shannon Richards, the founder of Hay Runner, a real estate development company in Portland, recently remodeled a kitchen, and she went with Cascades by Sherwin-Williams on all the cabinets. “My client wanted something dark and was inspired by decor we are seeing in restaurants right now,” says Richards. “I also love this color green with natural granite and slate.” If you’re not ready to go all-in on green, take a cue from Jennifer Morrison of Morrison Design House, who opted for a green island in an otherwise creamy white kitchen in Cumberland.

Look outdoors for inspiration.
We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: Look to nature when choosing colors! Designers point to the great outdoors as the best place to find an appealing green. Morrison even goes so far as to gather pieces of nature from the property she’s designing to help develop her color palettes. If you choose a color that’s found in nature nearby, you can’t go wrong.

Avoid using red and green together.
Proceed with caution when pairing crimson and evergreen. All the experts we spoke to agreed that red and forest green will almost always read as Christmasy.

Green Greetings

Want a dead-easy way to bring the color forest green into your home? Bring in actual pieces of the forest. Cut evergreens, even living trees, are a wonderful way to add forest green to your decor, especially during the holiday season, says Jen Dunlap, a horticulturist at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. We asked Dunlap, who will lead a class on decorating with evergreens this fall, to share her tips.

Balsam fir and white pine are two native Maine evergreens that Dunlap likes to use in cut arrangements or draped over mantels. However, Dunlap says to avoid using hemlock and spruce indoors because they tend to drop their needles quickly, sometimes after just a few days.

When cutting branches from your trees, wait until after Thanksgiving and harvest at night, when temperatures are low. Cut branches on a slant, especially if you plan on putting them in a vase, to increase the surface area that can absorb water.

Dunlap likes to add long-needled white pine and Chamaecyparis to garlands: “They have this gorgeous and drapey effect of water and soft flowingness,” she says. For a particularly Maine-centric touch, she suggests pressing and drying fern fronds in the pages of a book then adding them to your holiday display.

If you don’t have evergreens in your own backyard, you can ask a neighbor for permission to cut, or visit your local garden center or farmers’ market to stock up on greens, but never cut from public lands!

Disney theme parks use a dusky shade of green that they coined “go away green” to hide features that they don’t want guests to notice, like trash cans and construction walls.